Question: Why must I attend sexual harassment training at work each year? I’ve never heard any co-worker complain about sexual harassment and I don’t have time to attend training.
Answer: Since 2005, California public employers, and private employers with 50 or more employees, are required to provide at least two hours of effective, interactive sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees, and to also provide such training within six months of any employee initially assuming a supervisory role.  After the initial training, all supervisory employees must continue to receive sexual harassment prevention training and education at least every two years.
But is the training working? The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission spent a year tackling this question, ultimately issuing a 95-page report. The June 2016 “Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace” found that 28,000 of the approximate 90,000 charges the EEOC received in the 2015 fiscal year included an allegation of workplace harassment, 45 percent of which were based on sex.
“Six years ago, when we came to EEOC as commissioners, we were struck by how many cases of sexual harassment EEOC continues to deal with every year. … We are deeply troubled…,” remarked Co-Chairs Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, who authored the Report.
Taking formal action is the least common response to workplace harassment, evidenced by the 90% of individuals who claimed to experience harassment but never filed a charge or complaint, according to the Report. The EEOC Select Task Force found that even worse, approximately three out of four individuals never even informed a supervisor of the workplace harassment.
These statistics signal, per the Report, a lack of progress in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized claims for sexual harassment as Title VII discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Despite the exposure to legal liability and despite the workplace compliance and harassment prevention training adopted and encouraged to date, Feldblum and Lipnic have a “firm, and confirmed, belief that too many people in too many workplaces find themselves in unacceptably harassing situations when they are simply trying to do their jobs.”
What, then, is an employer to do?  Reboot workplace harassment prevention efforts, according to the Co-chairs. The EEOC offers suggestions about how to “reboot.” The Report emphasizes focusing on prevention, recommends alternative approaches to education and training, and provides concrete take-aways to implement. Employers must look for risk factors (e.g., isolated workspaces), take nuanced approaches (e.g., incrementally changing reward systems), and think outside the box.
The “It’s on Us” campaign, originally developed to reduce sexual violence in educational settings through broad-reaching empowerment, is one nontraditional method to consider.  Calling it an “audacious goal,” the Report touts the Campaign’s ability to transform workplace harassment from a problem defined by targets, harassers, and legal compliance, to a situation in which co-workers, supervisors, and clients all play a role in ending harassment. The Report is available at
Statistics in the coming years will bear out the effectiveness of the EEOC’s recommendations.  For now, employers should look to the Report for salient ways to revamp training efforts.